The Nation's Biggest and Best Beer Fest

Here's how to maneuver the Great American Beer Fest

Great American Beer Festival
Brewers Association

The Great American Beer Festival sells out every year, as people scramble to get tickets to what many consider the biggest and best beer event in the world.

The Guinness Book of World Records named the Great American Beer Festival the greatest number of beers on tap in one place -- with a whopping 3,800 different types from more than 800 breweries around the country.

The festival has also been named one of the top 1,000 places in the country to visit before you die. For beer-lovers, it’s often a top item on their bucket list, and it attracts travelers from around the globe.

It features beer tastings of just about every type of beer and competitions between the top brewers. The event is considered the premier competition in the country.

The festival continues to grow every year, along with the craft brewing industry. In 2016, expanded space in the tasting hall allowed for 60,000 tickets to be sold. The event started in 1982 with just 800 participants and 47 beers.

It is presented by the nonprofit educational and trade organization, the Brewers Association.

The festival has a pavilion full of interactive stations about brewing, including a chance to meet brewers and learn about their products first hand; lessons on how to evaluate beers like a judge; and art inspired by craft beer.

The Meet the Brewer Booths in the tasting hall are another highlight. Select breweries set up special booths and chat with attendees about their samples. It’s an opportunity for participants to not just taste the beer, but learn more about it, ask questions, make personal connections and understand the unique values and traditions of the various companies.

Although a sell-out of just over an hour may seem fast, it’s not the festival’s record. In 2013, the event sold out in a mere 20 minutes.

Insider Tips

Maneuvering thousands of beer options can be overwhelming. Here are some of our favorite tips on how to get the most out of the experience. 

  • Keep munching. Make a necklace out of pretzels or pack your pockets with nuts. Graze throughout the tasting so you won't get too drunk (and kicked out). Plus, a bite in between resets your taste buds and will help you enjoy the offerings more. 
  • Download the free app and use it to navigate the location and schedule.
  • If you are from out-of-state, beware of the higher altitude. Alcohol will affect you differently here. Drink plenty of water and stay even more hydrated than you think you need to be. Trust us.
  • Bring a bag to carry all of your swag. 
A flight of beer from Dry Dock Brewing
Courtesy of Dry Dock Brewing Company

GABF Specials

Look for hotels and restaurants offering special packages and celebrations in honor of the festival this fall. People lucky enough to score tickets to the festival now have to try to book a hotel room -- which sell out nearly as quickly as the festival.

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